On Gallows Down : Place, Protest and Belonging


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On Gallows Down : Place, Protest and Belonging Author: Format: Hardback First Published: Published By: Chelsea Green Publishing Co
string(3) "256"
Pages: 256 Language: English ISBN: 9781645021162 Categories: , , , Tag:

Longlisted for the James Copper Wainwright Prize 2022 for Nature Writing

Winner of the Richard Jeffries Award 2021

On Gallows Down is a powerful, personal story shaped by a landscape deeply loved; one that ripples and undulates with protest, change, hope – and the search for home.

From the girl catching the eye of the ‘peace women’ of Greenham Common to the young woman protesting the loss of ancient and beloved trees, and as a mother raising a family in tied and tenanted farm cottages on grand, country estates, this is the story of how Nicola came to write – as a means of protest. Of how she discovered the rich seam of resistance that runs through Newbury’s people from the English Civil War to the Swing Riots and the battle against the Newbury Bypass, the hope she finds in the rewilding of Greenham Common after the military left, and the stories told by the landscapes of Watership Down, the gibbet perched high on Gallows Down and Highclere Castle. Nature is indelibly linked to belonging for Nicola.

She charts her story through the walks she takes with her children across the chalk hills of the North Wessex Downs, through the song of the nightingale and the red kites, fieldfares, skylarks and lapwings that accompany her; the badger cubs she watches at night; the velvety mole she discovers in her garden and the cuckoo, whose return she awaits. On Gallows Down is about how Nicola came to realise that it is she who can decide where she belongs, for home is a place in nature and imagination, which must be protected through words and actions. We are writing for our very lives and for those wild lives we share this one, lonely planet with.

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"From treetop protests at the Newbury Bypass to the grand Highclere Estate, On Gallows Down is that rare thing: nature writing as political as it is personal."-Melissa Harrison, author of The Stubborn Light of Things: A Nature Diary "A powerful personal and political journey through place that charts the profound influence we have on nature, and that nature has on us."-Rob Cowen, author of Common Ground and The Heeding "An evocative and inspiring memoir which touches on environmental protest, family, motherhood and most importantly, nature. Her passion for the natural world and especially birds, shines through in this wonderful book."-Claire Fuller, author of Unsettled Ground "Nicola Chester deserves many readers. On Gallows Down is an impassioned study of a contested landscape, which interrogates our attitudes towards land stewardship, ownership and living in the right relationship with both human and other-than-human neighbours. Charged with love and fire, On Gallows Down is a beautiful exploration of a much-mapped, multi-faceted landscape."-Katharine Norbury, author of The Fish Ladder "Chester's writing has a lovely elasticity, dancing between wonder, introspection and anger as she moves from the particular to the universal...She belongs to the disappearing English, rural working class, and is intent on handing this baton to her three children, who play a part in the book. Chester also explores the familiar tension between wanting to write and being needed at home. The heady ecstasy of time carved out alone, in nature. The scrabble to earn a precarious living, and the insecurities of occupying a tied cottage. The idea of 'home' lies at the heart of this fierce, beautifully written, immersive book about one's place within the landscape."-Tessa Boase, author of Etta Lemon: The Woman Who Saved the Birds "Nicola's passionate and enduring love of nature shines through every single word, paragraph and page of this book, as she seamlessly weaves memoir with stories of the landscape in which she is so deeply rooted that it seems to speak through her. Powerful, enlightening, dazzling, hopeful, On Gallows Down is a rare and precious gem - to be savoured, not rushed, and returned to again and again. My words cannot do this book justice - it simply needs to be read."-Brigit Strawbridge Howard, author of the Wainwright-shortlisted Dancing with Bees

Author Biography

Nicola Chester's clarion call to nature conservation was first recognised when she won the BBC Wildlife Magazine's Nature Writer of the Year Award in 2003. She has written a regular column for the RSPB members' magazine, Nature's Home, for over fifteen years. She is a Guardian Country Diarist and wrote the first book in the RSPB's Spotlight series on iconic British wildlife, Otters. Her writing features in several anthologies, including all four Seasons books, edited by Melissa Harrison, the new Red Sixty Seven book and Women on Nature, edited by Katharine Norbury.